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TMCNet:  Brick-and-mortars find a 'friend' online [Boston Herald]

[February 06, 2013]

Brick-and-mortars find a 'friend' online [Boston Herald]

(Boston Herald (MA) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Feb. 06--Embattled brick-and-mortar stores continue to dominate when it comes to purchases, even as more shoppers use smartphones and tablets to research products and find deals, according to a new survey of 11,000 shoppers in the United States and 10 other countries.

"Retailers should have realistic expectations when it comes to channels and devices, as shopping trends may not change drastically, and social media and tablets are likely not taking over anytime soon," said Susan McPartlin, retail and consumer sector leader at PwC U.S., which conducted the survey. "While many forecasts point toward devices and social media dominating in retail, companies today need to utilize their multiple channels to engage with consumers and use social media as a marketing and communication tool to create value." From Facebook to Twitter to Pinterest, social media may be growing by leaps and bounds, but it's not likely to become an indispensable retail channel anytime soon.

Only 12 percent of respondents reported buying an item via a social media site last year -- up from 5 percent in 2011 -- while 18 percent said they bought a product as a result of information gleaned from social media.

The National Retail Federation forecast online sales would rise 9 percent to 12 percent this year. While that growth would outpace retail store sales -- projected to grow only 3.4 percent -- it would still account for less than 10 percent of total retail sales. Social media's true value may be in connecting or introducing shoppers to brands.

A growing number of consumers -- 59 percent last year, or 10 percent more than in 2011 -- are following retailers or brands through social media, according to the PwC survey. And more than a quarter of respondents said they discovered brands via social media websites with which they previously were unfamiliar.

The key for retailers is an "omni-channel" approach, rather than looking at social media in a vacuum, said retail consultant Michael Tesler of Norwell's Retail Concepts.

"You elevate your communication and your customer service and your branding to be totally synchronized and transparent on all channels," he said. "They all work together ... to make a great brand." Social media works as the "glue" or connecting factor for retailers' marketing.

"It contributes to purchases," Tesler told the Herald. "It doesn't matter where exactly the transaction is made. If someone sees a comment on Facebook or a picture on Pinterest, and that leads to a purchase, then that's successful use of social media." ___ (c)2013 the Boston Herald Visit the Boston Herald at Distributed by MCT Information Services

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